Cover Image: Rewilding Motherhood

Rewilding Motherhood

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There may be nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes tells us, but Shannon K. Evans puts a fresh spin on motherhood, from the Biblical to the cultural expectations, moving on to contemporary ideals. The idea of women as more than mothers has been taking off for at least half a century, to the point that feminism has come under assault and some women yearn for the days when it was "enough" just to want to be a wife and mother. (I've heard this from Millennial women who are half my age..) Even if this book offered nothing "new," it would be offering much-needed reminders, because even though we hear marvelous insights and inspiring words, we tend to forget them, or fail to internalize them. One of the fresh twists we get from Evans may amount to her appropriating another term, "rewilding," but she grabs this ball and runs with it and SHE SCORES. 

As a prairie-planting guerilla gardner and contemplative, I say "Bravo!" to this analogy: 
“To rewild a piece of land is to allow it to return to its original state: biodiverse and flourishing as nature intended," Evans writes in her introduction. "Rewilded land will look unkempt to the outside observer, but in actuality it is thriving--a fact proven by its self-regulatory and self-sustaining ecosystem.” So, too, motherhood may be stripped of centuries of order and structure as we challenge old assumptions and ideals.

This is not a conventional "Christian" book exhorting us to live up to the standards of saints and martyrs. This is a liberating view of mothering for anyone from any religion or walk of life. (I might dare to assert that this is a book for thousands of generations of women, not "birth persons" or men who seek to become pregnant.)

Not surprisingly, Evans has read and quoted "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype" by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, but Evans is very well-read and has done a great job of internalizing the wisdom of many women authors. She quotes the best of them, from the saints to contermporary writers like Sue Monk Kidd and Terry Tempest Williams. 

Certain themes in this book reminded me of another classic, "Diapers, Pacifiers, and Other Holy Things" by Lorraine M. Pintus. In 1995, PIntus wrote of praying while on her knees, scrubbing floors, praying through all the daily chores of wife/motherhood. Evans adds to this:

“The vast majority of the living that you do takes places within the walls of your home, with the people you most take for granted....The way we speak, not just about our own bodies but to the souls under our roof, is sacred. Equitable division of household labor is sacred. Sex is sacred. Scrubbing toilets is sacred. Planting a garden is sacred....When I say sacred, I don’t just mean that these everyday actions are worthy of our time and protection, but that they are an actual portal to the divine life...the people and actions that make up our lives are seeds of divine encounter. If we treat them as seeds must be treated—with intentionality, care and consistency—they will sprout, blossom, and bear fruit..” 

Another book came to mind as I read this one: "A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband 'Master' "by Rachel Held Evans. Here again was a young woman, very well read, with meticulously researched ideas and insights. You can read both books without coming across any redundancy of information.

Evans touches on so many writers and mystics, I need to take notes and review the names and quotes, trying to retain all this information, and above all to internalize some of these concepts. My Kindle is packed full of highlights - so many great lines and insights to share. It will take me a long time to summarize the best of the best, and I am seriously overdue in reviewing this book, so I will mention just a few insights that stayed with me:

"Where is the icon of the mystic with one baby on the hip, a toddler crying at their feet, cooking dinner with one hand, trying to finish work on a laptop with the other?"

"... the myth of the ever-accessible mother: the mother who will always give tirelessly, smile tenderly, respond patiently, and accept the hand she has been dealt with endless grace and ease."

"Real mothers lose it, pick themselves back up, dost off their ego, hug their child, and try it again."

Evans is not exclusively Catholic in her belief system. She quotes Jewish and Buddhist scholars, feminists, contemporary essayists, and of course the saints. "All manner of events transpire in life," Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller reflects in her book "Momma Zen," reminding us that we should abandon the idea of failure and mistakes: Only in the mind,  "our judging, critical, labeling mind," do we experience *mistakes.* Words like 'There you go again," and and "why can't you get it right" comprise a "nonstop narrative" to our lives. 

Some readers like the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I've been seeing it in a lot of books lately. I skip these parts. I'd give this book five stars for the themes, wisdom quoted from the saints, and inspiring ideas, and pretend I didn't see the annoying and intrusive questions for readers to ponder and discuss.

Thank you to Brazos Press, Shannon Evans, and NetGalley for providing a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Based on the idea of letting natural spaces go back to the way they were when they were left to be wild, Shannon Evans's latest book encourages moms of all ages and stages to do the same. This was a refreshing look at the call of moms in the lives of our children, and an encouragement to me to give myself grace in this season of littles. If you're a mom, you will appreciate this book!
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This book is an absolute gift. I've already started planning out who will be receiving this as a present, because there are so many women I know who would benefit from it. The author manages to be both calming and challenging in her language; her voice is strong and gentle as she tenderly massages emotionally sore places. I highly recommend it.
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First, let’s all just take a moment to admire this gorgeous cover. 😍 I swooned when I saw it—such beautiful cover art! @shannonkevans’s words inside are just as much a work of art. 

In her introduction, she writes: “To rewild a piece of land is to allow it to return to its original state: biodiverse and flourishing as nature intended. Rewilded land will look unkempt to the outside observer, but in actuality it is thriving--a fact proven by its self-regulatory and self-sustaining ecosystem” (xi).

This book is a fascinating, mystical ode to this idea of rewilding as it pertains to motherhood. I particularly loved her chapter on the spiritual teaching of household labor. The book as a whole is much more mystical than what I usually read, but the lessons I can apply to my role as a woman, a homemaker, and a mother, are powerful. I loved the meditations/spiritual practices Evans provides at the end of each chapter. 

My favorite part of the book is the chapter on incarnational theology for mothers: 

“The vast majority of the living that you do takes places within the walls of your home, with the people you most take for granted. If you are called to a life of incarnation, of bearing witness to the reality of a God who is fully present, then the minutiae of home life are what matter most. To live incarnationally in our homes is to treat life as sacred. The way we speak, not just about our own bodies but to the souls under our roof, is sacred. Equitable division of household labor is sacred. Sex is sacred. Scrubbing toilets is sacred. Planting a garden is sacred....When I say sacred, I don’t just mean that these everyday actions are worthy of our time and protection, but that they are an actual portal to the divine life...the people and actions that make up our lives are seeds of divine encounter. If we treat them as seeds must be treated—with intentionality, care and consistency—they will sprout, blossom, and bear fruit. And we will kneel on holy ground” (147-148). Powerful, right? 

Thank you for the ARC, @brazospress, in exchange for my honest review.
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TL;DR: I highly recommend Rewilding Motherhood to anyone looking for a progressive Christian reflection on the roles women are forced to play as mothers and how we can reclaim a mothering identity that is "wilder" and more reflective of our messier, more complicated, truer selves.

I've been following Shannon K. Evans' writing since about 2015 and have purchased her other books (Embracing Weakness, Bearing Light) in the past so I knew I'd enjoy this one. Shannon is a Catholic convert, and though her writing is always centered pretty firmly within her progressive Catholic perspective, I knew that she was trying to embody a more ecumenical focus in her newest book (even choosing a non-Catholic publisher this time around), which made me even more interested in picking it up.

Rewilding Motherhood is just what I expected: an open-hearted, feminist, progressive Christian guide to reframing our conversations around what motherhood is and can be. Shannon's goal, as she puts it in her introduction, is to get us to step back from what decades (centuries?) of expectations about mothering (and, really, womanhood) should look like and to see how a spiritual recentering of our understanding of the blessings and burdens of motherhood can provide empowerment and fulfillment. Each chapter looks at a different facet of mothering, from patience to rage and everything in between; Shannon provides anecdotes from her own experiences and those of mothers she interviewed, quotations and research from other books on spirituality and theology, and her own analysis of scripture for each topic, then ends the chapter with suggested questions, journal prompts, or actions one might take to go deeper on the subject.

This is not a "how to" book, but more of a "how might we rethink this" book. "Rewilding Motherhood" is not a roadmap to a specified destination; Shannon's goal is to reconsider the routes we've been forced to take and to then give her readers a chance to find a new path. I think this book would work especially well when read in community with other women - a women's fellowship book group discussion jumps immediately to mind.

Something I love about "Rewilding Motherhood" is that all of the sources Shannon quoted and cited were written by women, ranging from Sue Monk Kidd to Terry Tempest Williams to Christy Angelle Bauman to Robin Wall Kimmerer. What a (shockingly) rare thing, to find a book on feminine spirituality that uses only books by women as source material!

My biggest complaint about the book is that the topics covered here are so numerous that Shannon had to keep her discussion of each quite brief. I think that, for women from certain Christian backgrounds, many of the things Shannon discusses will be brand new; most of what she says here was not groundbreaking for me. As a result, I found myself wanting to wade much farther out into the deep waters of some of what she just touches on here; the book is so broad in its scope that there simply isn't enough time or room for the kind of deep thought and research I was hoping for on some of the topics that most interested and challenged me. (None of this was a surprise, as it's clear from the jacket copy that this is exactly what the book sets out to be. I just hope Shannon might decide to choose one of these chapters and turn it into a whole book of its own the next time around.)

Shannon's writing style is poetic but linear; she is easy to read and follow and it is also a pleasure to read what she has to say. Though it is secular, the book "How To Be A Happier Parent" by K. J. Dell'Antonia is the best comparison I can think of: a book in the voice of a wise and friendly companion and a carefully researched look at a variety of aspects of day-to-day parenting realities and how we can reframe them to feel more fulfilled, more seen, and more connected to our children and to ourselves.
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I have been a fan of Shannon Evans since I first encountered her. A seeker who challenges herself and everyone who reads her to go deeper, she is not satisfied with the status quo, and she won't let us be, either. This makes her books a soul challenge in the best of ways. Because isn't soul challenge, after all, what a life in faith is all about?

Rewilding Motherhood is pointed toward motherhood, but it was not so much as mother, but as woman that I interacted with this book. I am a traditional kind of gal who has been dragged by God, through life experiences, into a less traditional view of many (though by no means all) things surrounding faith. In Evans work I find myself looking at the familiar, but also taken beyond my comfort zone.

What does it mean for women of faith, having grown up in a structure where faith is defined by the male, not the female, experience? What if those male-driven norms train us to damage ourselves by more and more self-emptying instead of recognizing that without good mental health, we can't really nurture those in our care? What does our compulsion to control tell us about our inner life? Why do we insist we ought to be seeking contentment? What if our lack of contentment is a holy clarion call?

Rewilding Motherhood asks hard questions--at times liberating, at times resonating so deep, it's like a gong went off in my soul, and at times well beyond what I'm comfortable contemplating. Not everything in this book landed on fertile ground. Some of it I am not ready for. Perhaps I never will be. But faith is not here to make us feel good. It's here to challenge us to grow, and this book does that.
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I loved this and the passages within this book. It was very refreshing to read as a mother to a toddler and being pregnant. It is better than reading any other pregnancy/motherhood book.
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In Rewilding Motherhood, Shannon K. Evans takes the concept of rewilding and attempts to apply it to feminine spirituality.  For years, women have been told that motherhood will complete them.  But many women still long for a deeper spiritual connection with God.  Evans encourages women to use motherhood as an opportunity to connect with a deeper knowledge of God and self.  Topics include: identity, work-life balance, and solitude.

I was really excited about the premise of this book.  I think there's a lot here to explore.  However, the first chapter was so full of red flags.  From the first page, the author asserts that society has told women that they'll be fulfilled from being mothers.  This statement alone is completely contrary to today's view of motherhood which has been greatly devalued.  Evan goes on to talk about how women have sacrificed themselves on the alters of their husbands and children.  Not only did I find this statement offensive, but also untrue.  There's was so many condescending statements just within the first few chapters of this book; I became so frustrated with the author that I just couldn't go any further.  All in all, Rewilding Motherhood felt very poorly researched, very self-helpish, and incredibly judgmental.  I just can't recommend this book for anyone.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
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It’s time to “reimagine motherhood as the spiritually empowering experience it should be.” --Shannon K. Evans

I’ll be honest--I typically avoid Christian books on motherhood.

When Rewilding Motherhood popped up in my available advance reader copies, I quickly dismissed it.

Most Christian books on motherhood are too sappy, too gender-stereotyped, too shaming.
Rewilding Motherhood is not your mama’s Christian motherhood book.

It is feminist. It is gutsy. It is contemplative. It will cultivate a deeper spiritual practice for mothers who want to engage their hearts and spirit in the midst of the demands of motherhood. I even think it will encourage non-mothers who want to grow in contemplative practices too.

I highly recommend Rewilding Motherhood for any woman who is spiritually hungry for more.
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This book was a breath of fresh air. It was empowering, honest, and brilliantly written to draw out the feminine genius.
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This book is so beautiful and hearwarming. As a new mother myself, the advice Shannon Evans gives is so timely for this period of my life. She does a wonderful job of mixing practical insights and a conversational tone with deep thoughts and eloquent writing. I loved this book.
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'Rewilding Motherhood' is a lovely book that takes apart each part of a 'traditional' mother's role and asks you to look closer at whether you're sacrificing yourself when you don't have to. Moving through your inner life and your outer life Evans guides the reader to reconsider and reconnect with your sense of self. With practical exercises and concrete steps the idea is to take a holistic view of your life and your many different roles within it. It's both a practical and spiritual guide.

On the other hand, I don't think there's any ground here that hasn't been covered already. There are many books, blogs, podcasts and articles asking mothers to consider their own happiness and self-care needs. If you're somebody who is already in-touch with your needs and contemplates life I don't think there is much here that you wouldn't have heard already.

Personally I didn't enjoy a lot of Re-Wilding Motherhood. I'm a more traditional Catholic so Evan's lovely spiritual (Jesuit?) Catholicism made me uncomfortable! But I've given this review 4 stars because that's my fault for not reading the whole title correctly. If I'd paid more attention to the 'Feminine Spirituality' part then I wouldn't have picked it up! So - if anybody else found this book under a list of 'Catholic books' or 'Catholic authors' please be warned!
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Rewilding Motherhood is a spiritual gem, polished by beautiful prose and the caring heart of its author, Shannon K. Evans. Subtitled, "Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality," this incredible book is raw and real and ultimately quite satisfying. 

Evans mines important territory with passages on maintaining boundaries, reclaiming solitude, cultivating patience, and heeding intuition. She explores the spiritual side of motherhood with passion and purpose, guiding the reader along the path to a closer relationship with the Creator.

The author speaks to the despondency many mothers feel about the spiritual aspects of their all-too-busy lives. She encourages women to discover mystery and blessing even in the midst of diaper-changing and dish-washing. 

Evans has a fascinating perspective on the spiritual life which is likely to resonate with a number of mothers, especially those of the Millennial generation. That said, this is a book that can be treasured by mothers of all ages and stages of life.
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I really didn't enjoy this book. I had high hopes for it but I just didn't agree with many of the author's assertions and felt like she was quite condescending to those who thinks differently than her or are "self actualized" in ways that differ from her. She very narrowly follows a scope of what she feels helps her reach that but it is so different from woman to woman that she cannot possibly rightly know what each person needs to feel that, and it can very well be the things that she puts down. I expected this book to be more positive and uplifting, but found it to me more depressing and judgmental than anything.
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Rewilding Motherhood is a much needed reposturing of what motherhood is and should look like. The same tired tropes about motherhood need to be reworked, and Shannon does a beautiful job of exploring these. Touching on ways, as mothers, we can transform inwardly to reimagine motherhood and how we can reshape society, this book shows us how to look at motherhood in a new light. 

As a first time mother, I had felt in my soul but didn’t have the words to describe so much of what Shannon touches on. The ideas and stereotypes of motherhood we are given do no match the gut level feelings I have about what it truly is. Rewilding Motherhood is a beautiful and society-changing reimagining of what motherhood should be.
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Thank you to Brazos Press, Shannon Evans, and NetGalley for providing a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The titular premise of Rewilding Motherhood centers on the idea of rewinding mothers as one would rewild a place. That is, to return her to her natural state, one that is spiritually rooted, firm in self-awareness and identity, socially connected, and powerful. Though written from her own perspective as a Catholic woman and mother, Rewilding Motherhood is thoroughly ecumenical and, I believe, accessible to women of all faith backgrounds and traditions. Evans writes expansively and inclusively, organically ushering her readers through a journey of prioritizing their efforts to grow inward that they may be whole humans. Her chapters flow in that way, structured in two parts, one focusing on growing inward, one on flowing outward, and within each part, chapters ranging from integration and maintaining boundaries to staying curious, becoming gentle (especially in regards to one's own self-talk), and finding the divine in everyday life. 

I will be honest and say that I find most books on "Christian motherhood" overly saccharine, glazing over the real, lived experience I have walked through myself and seen in other mothers-- the angry moments, the moments of struggling to prioritize one's own passions in the context of family life, balancing work and restful solitude, the whole gamut. 

This book is not that. Evans cites everyone from Lady Gaga to St. Teresa of Avila to zen mother and priest Karen Maezen Miller. She does justice to the depth and breadth of motherhood, being ecumenical and inclusive while offering her own experience as a Catholic, never in an overly preachy tone. 

My personal faith background is complicated and I'll profess to being more than a little skeptical about the premise of the book. Too hokey? Too woo? Too spiritual in ways that press against tender bits of my past? I was really pleasantly surprised to see how wide the table was in this book for someone like me. 

If you're remotely spiritual and a mother-- Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic, Quaker, Catholic, mainstream Christian, or any combination, I think you'll get a lot out of Rewilding Motherhood.
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